Over the course of a single decade - the 1990s - Leonardo DiCaprio graduated from supporting work in television to a status as one of the most sought-after Hollywood actors under 30. After leading roles in William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet and James Cameron's Titanic, the actor became a phenomenon, spawning legions of websites and an entire industry built around his name.
DiCaprio was born November 11, 1974, in Hollywood, CA. The son of a German immigrant mother and an underground comic book artist father who separated shortly after Leonardo's birth, he was raised by both of his parents, who encouraged his early interest in acting. At the age of two and a half, the fledgling performer had his first brush with notoriety and workplace ethics when he was kicked off the set of Romper Room for what the show's network deemed "uncontrollable behavior." After this rather inauspicious start to his career, DiCaprio began to hone his skills with summer courses in performance art while he was in elementary school. He also joined The Mud People, an avant-garde theater group, with which he performed in Los Angeles. In high school, DiCaprio acted in his first real play and began doing commercials, educational films, and the occasional stint on the Saturday morning show The New Lassie. In 1990, after securing his first full-time agent at the age of 15, DiCaprio landed a role as a teenage alcoholic on the daytime drama Santa Barbara. He also continued to appear on other TV shows, such as The Outsiders and Parenthood, and made his film debut in the 1991 horror film Critters 3. The actor got the first of many big breaks with a recurring role on the weekly sitcom Growing Pains. His portrayal of a homeless boy won him sufficient notice to get him an audition for Michael Caton-Jones's harrowing screen adaptation of Tobias Wolff's This Boy's Life. DiCaprio won the film's title role after beating out 400 other young actors and it became his career breakthrough. The 1993 film, and DiCaprio's performance opposite Robert DeNiro, won raves and the actor further increased the adulation surrounding him when, later that year, he played Johnny Depp's mentally retarded younger brother in Lasse Hallström's What's Eating Gilbert Grape. DiCaprio won an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his performance, and at the tender age of 19, was hailed as an actor to watch.